April 29, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com
The phrase “undue corporate influence” is usually applied to buying votes and shaping policy. But how about killing people?
Here is an interview with Daniel Kovalik, an attorney who knows about this subject.
An adjunct professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh, Kovalik is a counsel for the United Steelworkers. He has worked on cases involving human rights abuses in Colombia. The Christian Science Monitor described him as “one of the most prominent defenders of Colombian workers in the United States.” He has received a Project Censored Award for his article detailing the murder of trade unionists in Colombia.
Q: Let’s clear away some confusion right at the beginning. We’re talking about the country of Colombia. People in the US have a vague picture of left-wing guerillas and right-wing paramilitaries fighting each other for political control and control of the drug trade: Both sides are crazy killers. Or something like that. So, saying that right-wing paramilitary death squads are killing civilians in Colombia…it doesn’t really sink in with most Americans. Comments?
A: Yes, most people remember the death squads in El Salvador during the 1980’s, but few Americans know of the existence of the death squads in Colombia which have existed in various forms since 1962. These death squads, which continue to haunt Colombia, were the brain child of General William Yarborough who was tasked to carry out President Kennedy’s National Security Doctrine. This Doctrine, created in response to the “threat” of Vatican II and Liberation Theology, was really about destroying popular movements in Latin America, and targeted union leaders, peasant leaders and progressive Catholic clergy. In Colombia alone, 80 Catholic priests and 3 Catholic bishops have been killed since 1984, mostly by right-wing paramilitaries. As the Catholic Bishops Conference of Colombia has explained, priests continue to be murdered in that country because of their advocacy on behalf of the poor. And yet, their deaths, and the death squads responsible for them, are virtually unknown in this country.
Q: These right-wing paramilitaries…some of them are paid by US corporations to kill union organizers and farmers and take over the farm land for companies like Chiquita Banana? Is that right? And Chiquita is guilty of being a contractor for murder? If so, how many murders is Chiquita responsible for?
A: Chiquita, formerly known as United Fruit Company, is probably the most notorious company in Latin America. As we mourn the loss of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one will recall his recounting of the murder of hundreds of banana workers in his opus, One Hundred Years of Solitude. This fictional account was based on the real slaughter of banana workers who went on strike in the town of Cienaga, Colombia in 1928. They were killed by the Colombian military acting at the behest of the United Fruit Company. Fast forward to the present, and Chiquita admitted to paying Colombian paramilitaries $1.7 million between 1997 and 2004, and running them 3000 Kalashnikov rifles. According to former Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran, at least 4,000 Colombians were killed by these paramilitaries that Chiquita sponsored. Iguaran also opined that, if not for this support, the paramilitaries would not have been able to spread their tentacles throughout Colombia as they were able to do.
Q: Has any successful legal action been taken against Chiquita?
A: Chiquita was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for the foregoing payment scheme, but they made a sweetheart settlement with the Department which allowed them to pay a mere $25 million fine with no jail time for any of the officials involved. And, what’s more, they were allowed to pay this fine over 5 years.
Q: This is an ongoing situation? Chiquita is still paying paramilitaries to kill farmers and union organizers in Colombia?
A: According to a 2012 report by the Colombian human rights group Justicia y Paz, Chiquita continues to make payments to the paramilitaries through a new subsidiary known as Banacol.
Q: The US government has given, what, several billion dollars to Colombia to fight against drug traffickers. Yes? Is that the whole story or any true part of the story? Or has all that money been given for other purposes?
A: The U.S. has given the Colombian military over $9 billion since 2000, ostensibly to fight coca cultivation in and drug trafficking from Colombia. However, the irony is that the Colombian military and its paramilitary allies have themselves been directly involved in cocaine trafficking on a large scale. And so, in reality, the U.S. has been claiming to fight drug trafficking by sponsoring drug traffickers.
Q: There is an insane legal precedent that, if you pay people to commit murder, but you don’t know who they then kill, you’re off the hook?
A: Well, this is an interesting point. The truth is that you can be held liable for paying groups which go out and murder others if you know that that is in fact what they will do. In the case of Chiquita, they very well knew that they were paying money and running weapons to a group, the AUC paramilitaries, that would go out and murder. And, according to Mario Iguaran, they counted on the AUC to go out and kill, and in the process, subdue the banana region of Uraba for Chiquita’s benefit. The reason Chiquita was let off with a slap on the wrist was because (1) it is a powerful corporation with influence; and (2) it really wasn’t doing anything different than what the U.S. government has been doing for years. The U.S. helped found the death squads in Colombia and has continued to funnel billions of dollars to the Colombian military, all the while knowing that the Colombian military has been working hand-in-glove with the paramilitaries.
Q: What is Chiquita claiming right now about its role or non-role in murders in Colombia? Are they lying?
A: Chiquita claims that it has not paid the paramilitaries since 1984. Again, the report of Justicia y Paz says much differently.
Q: What are the prospects for justice in Colombia?
A: I think that justice in Colombia will be quite elusive. There are so many corporations and political actors in that country that are so intertwined with the paramilitaries that it will be very difficult to bring all of those actors to justice. Indeed, you really have a problem of the fox guarding the hen house.
Q: Name some of the major US corporations operating in Colombia and their true objectives. Is this all about hiring ridiculously cheap non-unionized labor and stealing fertile land from peasants, for mining, agriculture, and oil drilling?
A: There is a laundry list of U.S. corporations operating in Colombia. These include Dole and Del Monte –both of which have been implicated in supporting paramilitaries but which have never been prosecuted; Occidental Petroleum and British Petroleum which have also supported repressive forces in Colombia; the list goes on. The whole raison d’etre of these companies is to exploit the land and resources of countries like Colombia for their own profit, and largely to the detriment of the environment and people of Colombia.
–end of interview—
My comments: You aren’t going to hear about these ongoing crimes on the evening news. Corporate murder-for-hire isn’t a popular subject. Advertisers wouldn’t want to buy commercial time on news programs that trumpeted the names of famous US corporations who pay paramilitaries to kill people who stand in the way of increased profits.
In one paragraph, Kovalik makes a perfectly reasonable, persuasive, and incisive case for the US government’s involvement in trafficking. The government has given billions to the Colombian military, which traffics drugs. And this operation is part of the US war on drugs.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at www.nomorefakenews.com